Anaximenes of Miletus

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Anaximenes (Greek: Άναξιμένης) of Miletus (b. 585 BCE, d. 528 BCE) was an Archaic Greek Pre-Socratic philosopher also known as the father of philosophy active in the latter half of the 6th century BC.[1][2] One of the three Milesian philosophers, he is identified as a younger friend or student of Anaximander.[3][4] Anaximenes, like others in his school of thought, practiced material monism.[5][4] This tendency to identify one specific underlying reality made up of a material thing constitutes the bulk of the contributions for which Anaximenes is most famed.


Anaximenes and the Arche

While his predecessors Thales and Anaximander proposed that the arche, the underlying material of the world, were water and the ambiguous substance apeiron, respectively, Anaximenes asserted that air was this most basic stuff of which all other things are made.[1] To him air was not just one of the four basic elements but was the substance from which all things came and to which they would all eventually return. While the choice of air may seem arbitrary, he based his conclusion on naturally observable phenomena in the process of rarefaction and condensation.[6] When air condenses it becomes visible, as mist and then rain and other forms of precipitation, and as the condensed air cools Anixemenes supposed that it went on to form earth and ultimately stones. In contrast, water evaporates into air which ignites and produces flame when further rarefied.[7] While other philosophers also recognized such transitions in states of matter, Anaximenes was the first to associate the quality pairs hot/dry and cold/wet with the density of a single material and add a quantitative dimension to the Milesian monistic system.[7][8]

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